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  • There are many colleges and trade schools that provide personal training degrees, diplomas, and certifications.
  • Although the NCCA is by far the most recognized and valued accreditation body for personal training out there, they are not the only one.
  • If you are looking for a job at a gym, find out what certifications they accept for their trainers.

The “best” is such a loaded word when it comes to personal training certifications. The NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) is by far the most recognized and valued accreditation body out there when it comes to personal training.

But there are a multitude of colleges and trade schools that provide personal training degrees, diplomas, and certifications, which are often accredited by the government (more times than not by the state the school is in).

Moreover, NCCA is not the only accreditation body in the fitness industry. Another accreditation body this is picking up some steam in the industry is CHEA (Council of Higher Education) and the U.S. Department of Education.

And while most in the personal training field still regard NCCA as the more valued accreditation, non-accredited NCCA programs like ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) have gotten accreditation form CHEA and U.S. DOE.

What are the NCCA accredited programs?

The NCCA accredited personal training certifications come from the following organizations:

  • ACE – American Council on Exercise has been around since 1985, is highly regarded in the industry, has workshops throughout the U.S. and costs just under $400, and additional $219 or $249 for the exam itself.
  • NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine has been around since 1987 and has over 100,000 members. This certification is widely accepted. The cost of this program (with the exam) ranges from $600 – $800 depending on which training package you purchase.
  • ACSMAmerican College of Sports Medicine has been around the longest of any of the certification bodies, 1954. Again, this certification is highly regarded in the industry. The program, materials, and testing will all total close to $800.
  • NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association was the first NCCA accredited program. The association has been around since 1993. The association differentiates itself from all other personal training programs because their certification also allows you to work with clients with special needs including obese individuals, people with eating disorders, elderly, pregnant women and a slew of other sectors of the population.
  • NSCF – National Council on Strength and Fitness is the most recognized certification by fitness chains across the U.S. Their program and exam will cost you a touch over $500 and workshops are available in most major U.S. cities.

The other three certifications that are NCCA accredited are NFPT (National Federation of Professional Trainers), NESTA (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) and IFPA (International Fitness Professionals Association) are not as much of a household name as the aforementioned certifications but still do have their perks as well.

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How important is NCCA accreditation?

This depends on what you are trying to do with your newly attained PT certification. If you are looking to work in a gym (especially a national name brand) then you would be wise to have an NCCA accreditation to go along with your training.

If you are going to start you own business, then it truly does not matter one way or the other. While you can jump on many forums and see the arguments for or against one particular certification over another, the truth is that experience, marketing, knowledge and people skills will all be needed to make you successful in this field.

Can I get a job if I complete a training program that is not NCCA accredited?

If you will be looking for a job at a gym, you should definitely find out what certifications they accept for their trainers. Once you have this list, you should then do your research and find out what program and certification fits your needs the best.

There may or may not be certifications that are not NCCA accredited. Although certifications like ACE, NASM and NSCA will be taken anywhere, attaining their certifications usually comes with a larger financial commitment than some others.

What is the best certification for me?

The best certification is the one that fits your budget, your career goals, and your time frame. Do you want hands-on practice or are you happy reading information from a book? Each program has different criteria in how they administer their tests and how they relay their information to you.

NSCA is beneficial as it opens up the market for working with special needs populations. If you have not desire to do so, then you may find another program better meets your needs. Many PTs have numerous certifications, while others have just one or two.

Like in any profession, you want to know your stuff and be able to convey to future employers and clients that you know what you are doing.  By having a certification that is recognized by an accreditation body will be the best route to go if you are serious about getting into the fitness profession.